7 Types of Lighting Terms That You Should Know About

Posted by Manhattan Home Design on Jan 15th 2019

We recently wrote a series of articles on the three different types of lighting, and we invite you to check them out. On those pieces we talked about a lot of stuff, primarily how to light a certain room and which types of light fixtures to use. We used a couple of terms that most people might not be familiar with, so we want to try and clarify that today. There are lots of lamps and light fixtures in the world, but all of them adhere to a few key types that describe their style, like genres of music. For example, a modern chandelier made of metal and naked bulbs is still a chandelier, even if it doesn’t look like everybody’s classic idea of a chandelier. Let’s talk about some lighting terms:

  • 1. Track lighting

Track lighting refers to an array of lightbulbs usually placed on the ceiling. They all spring from a single tube that contains their cabling and are usually fixed to it, though they can also be hanging freely. Track lighting is one of the most common types of ambient light, but smaller groups of track lights, with two or three bulbs, can also serve as a convenient way to do accent lighting.

  • 2. Recessed lighting

This is another very common term and you should know what it means, because it pops up everywhere. You know when the ceiling is covered by an array of tiny (usually circular) light fixtures that seem to be embedded on it? That’s recessed lighting. It’s very straightforward, very appealing, and very ubiquitous.

  • 3. Sconces

A sconce is any type of small light fixture that has a handle and is attached to a wall. Some people call them wall lamps, but that’s not really accurate. Alternatively, some sconces don’t really have handles, just a base. Most wall-mounted light fixtures count as sconces.

  • 4. Pendant

A chandelier is a pendant, but not every pendant is a chandelier. These lamps hang from the ceiling and usually have just one bulb (two bulbs tops). The difference with chandeliers is that those lamps have branches from a single source, while on a pendant, the bulbs are the source.

  • 5. Cove lighting

This is a very popular and stylish type of lighting fixture. It refers to those lights in which the bulbs are not entirely visible, usually contained behind a large opening in one of the walls. This makes it seem like the light is coming from the walls directly, and is a great choice for overhead ambient and accent lighting.

  • 6. Flush lights

This is the quintessential type of ceiling lamp. It refers to a single, medium-sized fixture that illuminates an entire room on its own and has just one big bulb. Flush lights are usually covered (entirely) by a particular shade, and you have to remove the shade to replace the lightbulb. Semi-flush lights are transparent and they allow you to see the lightbulbs inside.

  • 7. Island lighting

This is a type of lighting specifically designed for kitchen islands. A kitchen island is an open kitchen that usually comes with a separate piece of cabinetry for cooking or eating. Island lighting is thus very similar to track lighting but can come in a variety of configurations.


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